When to Visit

The first few weeks of June are heavenly. The sun shines almost contstantly, casting a pastel light across the blooming tundra, even at midnight. There is still broken ice on the bay, but it's usually warm enough for t-shirts. Sylvia Grinnell River has broken and the arctic char begin to run down to the ocean. Mosquitos and flies are rare. If you're a hiker, botanist, or birder, this is a great time to visit Iqaluit. Because the ice on bay is too soft for travel by snowmobile, you'll be limited to the area around Iqaluit.

By the end of June, an icebreaker will have arrived, making the bay accessible to local boats. Outfitters will gladly show off all there is to offer: fish for char, dig for clams, hike through the Katannilik Territorial Park , or search for narwhales, belugas and polar bears from the safety of a boat. Flowers cover the ground. Join hundreds of Inuit as they fish for char on the Sylvia Grinnell River, within walking distance of Iqaluit. Alianait Festival , in late June and early July, hosts workshops and performances in traditional Inuit and pan-Canadian arts. Mosquitos are emerging. Don't expect darkness at any time of the day. If you can only sleep when it's pitch black, bring a eye mask, especially if you will be camping. 

 July is usually the warmest month, with temperatures above 20°C (70°F), but the mosquitos can be bothersome. Bring a mosquito jacket. Blueberries and crowberries are usually ripe. Pick any direction and you'll find some (unless someone else has been there first).

August may be constantly drizzling rain. But the Northern Lights at the end of the month are unimaginable. Pinks, greens, and silvers dance across the entire sky. Dress well, lie on the sweet smelling tundra, and watch the lights for hours. They never stay the same. The arctic char begin the run up the river in late August. Arrive at the Sylvia Grinnell River at low tide, and you'll be greeted by hundreds of char. At high tide, they swim up the falls, on to northern lakes. Berry picking continues.

September is crisp and the best time to visit as a big-game caribou hunter. It's still possible to camp without any special cold-weather gear but bring the warmest gear you have. Many boats are still departing for good fishing spots, clam digging, hunting and camping.

Snow starts falling earnestly in October but the bay stays open through November. Usually, the last ship of the season departs in October. The Legislative Assembly may be sitting by the end of the month of November. Visit its unique round chambers and view a consensus-style government in action during question period. Considerable Inuit influences are obvious in this building, from the construction to door handles, and are fun to discover. Ask for a tour for more info.

Christmas celebrations start early in December, usually with a series of Christmas craft fairs. People from Iqaluit and nearby communites sell their art and crafts in time for Christmas presents. By mid-December, Inuit games start. Attend any games you can. It'll be the most fun you've ever had. There aren't many hours of sunlight in December. Pay particular attention to the winter solstice. On New Year's Eve, dozens of snowmobilers travel to the nearby community of Kimmirut and back. Watching them return is an Iqaluit tradition. Snowmobile lights are visible for hours as they cross the bay.

January and February are by far the coldest months of the year. Build an igloo or catch a dog sled ride across the sea ice, but make sure you're dressed like a local. Try to get a caribou skin outfit made by an elder. Daylight quickly returns, northern lights are still dancing, and during the full moons, marvel at your moon-shadow.